Two Men, Four armies, Four Countries

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The picture is of me in my advanced ROTC uniform with Dad just before I was to get an ROTC award. Dad, who had fought in three Axis armies, was very proud of me.

And now a retired US Army Colonel has read the story that spans the experiences of those men, from WWII to Vietnam, and loves the book!

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The book…it is a shame that we have so abused great adjectives i.e. awesome, outstanding, and terrific so (so is “so”)…in the United States Army lingo I will say “a job well done”.

Gerhard, your ability to tell your family’s story was and is a true gift; I understand “labors of love.” You made me laugh and cry and thank God for his mercy to you and your family especially where their lives were at great risk. It is a wonderful story of survival, heartbreak, determination, and love. Your research and capture of such historically valuable documentation was stunning.

Your family’s life story would make a great movie!!!!

-Dick Smith, US Army Colonel (Ret), former faculty member of both the Command & General Staff College and the US Army War College

Not in the book: the lifesaving lamb

Many stories we never made it into the book. Some didn’t make it because I took them out, others because somewhere along the way one has to stop changing the book. Yet occasionally something triggers my memory and a story that I hadn’t thought about for decades suddenly pops into my head.

For example, several minutes ago a 64-year-old story came to mind:

I was very sick and near death from a severe allergic drug reaction. I had been in bed for maybe four weeks. My parents were not sure I would survive. In hopes of sparking a will to live in me, my parents brought me a newborn lamb. I remember the joy I felt at the beautiful fluffy little lamb beside me in bed. Their plan worked.

First family portrait in America

Our first family photo in America, from The Capital Chimes, April 24, 1952.

After a 10-day voyage through the angry North Atlantic we made it to New York Harbor.

A day after receiving our alien registration card we were on a train heading to Columbus, Ohio.

We attended the church service at our sponsoring church on Easter Sunday, the morning of our arrival. We stood at the front of the church and were introduced.

Thinking back: there were no shower facilities in New York, on the ship, during three months of out-processing camps, in Rothenburg, or in Ohrenbach. I’m sure we did take a bath the week we left Ohrenbach, months before. Between that last bath and Columbus the only way we cleaned ourselves was with a washcloth and a bowl of cold water. If we stunk, the kind Christians did not let us know.

30A newspaper article - front page

Can you tell from the picture that we were happy to be in America? My brother and I dressed up in our best clothes for the picture: Lederhosen. The only other clothes my brother and I had when we arrived were one pair each of sweatshirt-like pants and shirt.

The Capital Chimes published an article on the new refugee family who had just arrived in Bexley, Ohio.

Hanna

The book has a short chapter about those in our extended family who did not escape communist Romania. A 22-year-old cousin, Hanna, was arrested and taken from her home in the middle of the night and sent off to Russia in January, 1945. She became a slave laborer.

In her memoir she describes an event not long after arrival at her prison camp:

“It is winter, 1945. It is terribly cold. The cloth we wrapped around our mouths and noses to ward off the cold is frozen stiff from our breath; frozen on our cheeks. Our lips are tight and split and in our noses we have ice buildup. We are outside all day in the extreme cold, carrying loads of heavy stones with our handbarrows.

As we work we encounter a man. What does he look like? He is covered with hoar frost. Our clothing too, our head covering and hair underneath are white. But we do not look so ghostlike. Or does it only seem so? After all it is extremely cold.

The man is close to us. He is also slave-laborer, but one who seems to be already broken. He walks like a marionette with stiff frozen joints and his face is covered with hoar frost. But his beard – his long beard – is an icicle. We are shaken. His eyes seem to notice nothing. We are very close now; he does not see us. We have now passed him. The man is walking alone through the huge compound in the opposite direction.

What group is he with? We do not know. He seems older than we are. Maybe he has a family at home; wife and children, people who hope. For him hope seems to have died here.”

The Family, Occupied East Germany

mom_brother_gerhardMom, my brother, and me (the short one) in Russian occupied East Germany, not long after the bombing raids stopped.

This is most likely the house where, not long before the picture was taken, a bomb came crashing through the roof and two floors and stuck in the dirt of the cellar, but did not explode.

At the time Dad was a POW of the Russians and Mom did not know if he had survived the war or not.

The Maros River

3 Transylvanian CrestThe Maroscher family name comes from the Transylvanian county of Maros and the river that borders it is also called the Maros. The Romanians call it the Mures.

Since the last name “Maroscher” is derived from the Transylvanian geography rather than an person’s occupation or physical characteristic, I assume Dad’s ancestors were likely among the early German settlers in Transylvania.

Vati’s childhood

Käthe Maroscher and Gustav her son (my dad) , 1920.

Käthe Maroscher and Gustav her son (my dad) , 1920.

Dad’s father died when dad was 2 years 7 months old. His father contracted pneumonia while officiating at a cold and wet funeral. The picture is of Dad with his mom. It was taken the same month his father died.

We know very little about Vati’s (Dad’s) childhood. (“Vati” means “Dad” in German.)

Note: The picture shows Dad with his mom the same month as his dad died.